By Martin Walsh
As summer comes to an end, the Triton Showers backed Motorsport Ireland National Rally Championship moves to its penultimate stage with the Bluebird Care Galway Summer Rally on Sunday next. Hosts, Galway Motor Club have attracted a capacity entry of 150 crews with a further fifty on a reserve list for the nine-stage Athenry based event.
Although the Monaghan/Limerick combination of Josh Moffett/Keith Moriarty have already secured the title with six straight victories, second and third overall positions remain undecided along with many of the class awards.
The quest for event victory is a very open contest with several of the top ten drivers capable of victory. Dubliner Robert Barrable (Ford Fiesta Rally2) was one of Moffett’s main challengers in the opening half of the season, he still has the opportunity to cement second overall in the eight-round series. Currently, he shares second spot with Armagh’s Darren Gass, who isn’t competing in Galway.
But it will not be easy for Barrable, who has former national champion Warrenpoint’s Peadar Hurson (Ford Fiesta WRC) as his main opposition. Hurson, a national champion in 1992, is also a former winner of the Galway Summer Rally and always performs well in the west of Ireland.
Former Irish Tarmac rally champion Dubliner Gareth MacHale, who returned to the sport on round five of the series in Limerick, continues to gain seat time in his right hand drive VW Polo GTi R5. Fresh from a fine fourth overall on the recent Cork ‘20’ International Rally, Dunmanway’s David Guest has the ex-Callum Devine Ford Fiesta Rally2 at his disposal and will be hoping to make an impression. So too will Donegal’s Joe McGonigle (Ford Fiesta Rally2), who contested two rounds of the series earlier in the year.
Former national champion Meath’s Tim McNulty will debut the ex-Aaron MacHale VW Polo GTi R5 having competed in a Ford Fiesta R5 on the earlier rounds of the championship. “It will be a learning curve, I always wanted to get a VW Polo and this opportunity came along so I got it.”
The top ten also features Louth’s Brendan Cumiskey (VW Polo GTi R5), Antrim’s Derek McGarrity and Waterford’s Andrew Purcell, both in Skoda Fabia R5’s and former national champion Niall Maguire (Ford Fiesta R5). Indeed, Purcell could be one to watch having got seat time on the recent Cork ‘20’ Rally. Omagh’s Seamus Leonard (Ford Fiesta Rally2) is seeded just outside the top ten and cannot be discounted for a top five finish.
Meanwhile, Maynooth’s Paul Barrett will debut the ex-Cathan McCourt Citroen C3 and will use the event as valuable seat time to get accustomed to the French machine. Currently sixth overall in the series, he is only four points off a possible fourth place and a strong finish in Galway will keep him in touch with his rivals.
Armagh’s Jason Black (Toyota Starlet), who will be co-driven by Galwegian Karl Egan are on course to win the rally.ie award for the top two-wheel drive crew within the Triton series. They are well clear of the opposition and with the best seven from eight events to count, they could secure the award in Athenry.
In the Mk2 Trophy series, Limerick’s Ed O’Callaghan leads his rivals Longford’s Stephen Faughnan and Clare’s Padraig Egan by fourteen and twenty-five points respectively and could take a major step towards the title. The presence of Cavan’s Gary Kiernan, who is also registered for the series, will provide more than just an interesting barometer in terms of pace. Others like Tyrone’s Adrian Hetherington and Monaghan’s Dessie Keenan, both in Escorts, should be amongst the pacesters in the two-wheel drive category along with the aforementioned Black and Donegal’s Johnny Jordan, Monaghan’s Sam Moffett and Richard Moffett, all in Toyota Starlets.
Local drivers include No. 36: Andrew Burke (Skoda Fabia R5); No. 41 Dylan O’Donoghue (Mitsubishi EvoIX); No. 46 Frank Rafferty (Mitsubishi EvoIX); No. 47 Tommy Cahill (Mitsubishi EvoVII); No. 48 Pat Kelly (Ford Fiesta) and No. 52 Sean Walsh (Ford Fiesta) while local lady Aoife Raftery (Ford Fiesta) and her co-driver Geraldine McBride are one of the few ladies crew on the entry list and are seeded at number seventy-eight.
The service park is at the Athenry Mart complex and the loop of three stages, repeated three times are at Tiaquin, Greenhills and Knockroe, the opening stage gets underway at 9.51am on Sunday. The event finishes at the mart complex at 5.00pm.
Seeded Top 10:
1. Robert Barrable/Paddy Robinson (Ford Fiesta Rally2)
2. Peadar Hurson/Damien Connolly (Ford Fiesta WRC)
3. Gareth MacHale/TBA (VW Polo GTi R5)
4. David Guest/Jonathan McGrath (Ford Fiesta Rally2)
5. Joseph McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney (Ford Fiesta Rally2)
6. Tim McNulty/Paul Kiely (VW Polo GTi R5)
7. Brendan Cumiskey/TBA (VW Polo GTi R5)
8. Derek McGarrity/Graham Henderson (Skoda Fabia R5)
9. Andrew Purcell/Andy Hayes (Skoda Fabia R5)
10. Niall Maguire/Conor Mohan (Ford Fiesta R5)
Athenry Mart complex
First Car Away: 09.10
S.S. 1, 4 & 7 (Tiaquin – 10.45km): 09.51; 12.43 & 15.30
S.S. 2, 5 & 8 (Greehhills – 17.25km): 10.22; 13.14 & 16.01
S.S. 3, 6 & 9 (Knockroe – 8.42km) 10.59; 13.51 & 16.38
Service (Athenry Mart complex) 09.10; 11.32 & 14.24
Finish Ramp (Athenry Mart complex): 17.00
Ritchie’s Mints and Projob Workwear are associate sponsors of the Triton Showers-backed Motorsport Ireland Rally Championship.
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